It’s easy to forget that fibromyalgia (FM) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are often dropped into the same category as ADHD. What I mean by that is that some doctors and even more lay persons don’t believe in them.
This is where the medical world meets the moral world. Sadly, when it comes to conditions that cannot be diagnosed through a blood test or an imaging study, then for some people it’s not real. It’s where we get into the idea that it’s all in your head.
I’ve posted before about how mental health is not all in your head. They are real medical conditions that require real interventions. The same is true for FM and CFS.
It gets sticky because of the type of patient it tends to affect most. Women are more affected by these conditions than men. That instantly puts it on the softer side of a diagnosis. Maybe they are just too sensitive and need to suck it up. It also affects women who tend to be more sensitive to begin with. Let me be clear – I DO NOT see this as a liability as a person. It does seem to pre-dispose these people to illness though. Let me explain my version of why.
Sensitive people are those that are VERY aware of the feelings and needs of others. They are also more gravely affected by criticism. Everything is personal to them. They live to please. Discord of any kind is intolerable to them. These are the most nurturing people you will ever meet.
The issues begin when their nervous systems just can’t do it anymore. It is exhausting being that aware all the time. Imagine living in an arcade – way too much stimulation. Just like anything else, a break is required every now and then. People who learn how to disengage can often continue to be sensitive people because their nervous systems get some down time. Those who don’t learn strategies to disengage, well they are the ones who get sick.
Sick shows up for these people in a variety of ways. Some end up so tired of caring that they end up being some of the most angry people you will meet. Don’t be fooled – they still only want love and appreciation. It’s just that they cannot take it anymore. Sometimes they turn to addictions – drugs, sex, alcohol, food, gambling – anything to pull them out of the agony for a little while.
For others sick shows up as the inability to get out of bed. CFS is that deep exhaustion when the thought of taking off the covers is too much. With FM the body puts these people in so much pain that they have to stop. Unfortunately, while their bodies take a break by not moving, their minds are still going full tilt. And now, they are embarrassed and confused. Why can’t I get myself going? They are so used to taking on the world, and now they can’t.
This is the vicious cycle of these conditions. Depression and anxiety also get into this. They feel terrible but can’t name why. It’s real physical pain and it’s compounded by feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Add to it a bunch of doctors and society that don’t recognize the pain and it’s tragic.
Stressful situations and events make these conditions worse. stress makes any condition worse but these people are even more so affected. Their nervous systems are exhausted. So that fun night out of dinner and a show can take them a week to recover from. You might think, ‘well, just sleep more then’. Most of these patients would kill to sleep. Insomnia is a key feature of many of the ‘mental health’ disorders. If they could sleep, they would get the deep recovery that can only come from sleep.
If you are someone experiencing CFS or MF, don’t despair. With the right support through counselling, nutrition, supplements, and medication, you can get well. I’ve helped many people over the years. It’s such a gift to see them get their lives back.
If you are someone who knows someone with one of these conditions, I urge you to look into it more. These are medical conditions like any other. These people need your support not your judgements.